By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE BAHAMAS is experiencing its wettest January for more than 20 years, with huge increases in levels of rainfall across the archipelago.
Particularly badly affected has been Grand Bahama, which has received three and a half times the average amount of expected rain so far this month.
Weather forecasters blame a strong El Niño for the deluge across the region.
Climate data compiled by American weather experts Accuweather for January since 1993 shows as much as a nine inch increase in rainfall levels in some areas. Tropical Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski told The Tribune yesterday that irregular weather patterns experienced in The Bahamas had resulted in a record number of “wet days” for both New Providence and Grand Bahama.
Accuweather forecasters reported 8.38 inches of rain in Grand Bahama during January - 6.08 inches above the 2.30 inch average for January. Mr Kottlowski said that Grand Bahama has never seen modern totals such as these while the levels for New Providence have not been as high since 1993. Mr Kottlowski stressed that the rainfall total for Freeport represents one of the highest, if not the highest, ever reported.
He said that analysis on Accuweather’s short term climate database dating back to 1993 shows that the highest January total recorded for Freeport was the 5.05 inches for 1998.
New Providence has seen 3.74 inches of rain so far in January - 1.97 inches more than the 1.77 inch average and, according to Accuweather’s short term climate database, the most reported on the island since 1993. Mr Kottlowski said the previous highest for January in New Providence was 3.40 inches in 1999.
“The overall weather pattern that has brought the very frequent rainfall leading to these high values is a direct result of the strong El Niño we are currently experiencing,” he said. “This pattern has forced branches of the Polar Jet to dip southward over the Gulf of Mexico more frequently than normal, leading to the Gulf to Florida storm track.”
The 2015-2016 El Niño has been categorised as the second strongest on record, close behind the historic 1997-1998 effect. The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific. Typical El Niño effects are likely to develop over North America during winter.
In November the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) climate watch team stated that the change in equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures was the key variant in predicting El Niños.